With so much focus on improving organizational culture over the last few years, one of the key areas I get requests to focus on as an executive coach is Authenticity as a leader. When leaders are authentic, they model transparency and honesty, which encourages others to do the same. This creates a culture of trust and respect, where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives, and where everyone is working towards a common goal. For so many years, far too many leaders were told that being authentic could be perceived as a weakness. As someone who has spent the last 6+ years researching and developing best place-to-work cultures, the truth is you will be left behind as a leader if you don’t prioritize understanding and improving your authenticity.
Brené Brown, a renowned expert on vulnerability and authenticity, has shown that leaders who are authentic are more effective and have a greater impact on those around them. One of the key findings from Brown's research is that authenticity is closely tied to vulnerability. Being authentic requires leaders to be open and honest about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even when it may be uncomfortable or difficult. This vulnerability allows leaders to build trust and connection with their team members, which in turn leads to more effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. At Panasonic Automotive, we call this Courageous Authenticity. This is part of our Culture Model to encourage leaders to use their voice in a courageous and authentic way and allow their team to do the same.
Another important aspect of authenticity is self-awareness. Authentic leaders have chance to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and values, which allows them to make decisions that align with the company culture as well as their personal beliefs. This self-awareness also helps leaders to navigate difficult situations with integrity and to stay true to their principles.
John Maxwell, who’s work I lean on a lot, has conducted extensive research on the importance of authenticity in leadership. According to Maxwell, authenticity as a leader is about being transparent, genuine, and real with others. It means being honest about who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe in. When a leader is authentic, they are able to connect with others on a deeper level, which helps to build trust and respect. In his research, Maxwell also found that authenticity leads to greater levels of engagement and productivity among team members. When team members trust and respect their leader, they are more motivated and engaged in their work. They also feel more empowered to take initiative and to contribute their ideas and skills.
Here are 5 things to consider to help focus and improve your authenticity as a leader:
1. Be transparent and honest: Share your thoughts and feelings openly with your team, and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. This will help to build trust and credibility with your team.
2. Lead by example: Practice what you preach, and demonstrate the behaviors and values you want to see in your team. Your team is always watching.
3. Stay true to yourself: Don’t try to be someone you’re not, or change your personality to fit a certain leadership style. Instead, be authentic and true to who you are.
4. Encourage open communication: Create a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. This will help you to understand their perspectives and make better decisions. Create some avenues for this such as skip level meetings, team town hall meetings, and weekly one-on-on meetings.
5. Continuously reflect and improve: Evaluate your own leadership style and consider how you can be more authentic. Ask for feedback from your team and make changes as needed.
Overall, authenticity is a crucial trait for any leader, and one that should be cultivated and nurtured. By being true to themselves and their values, leaders can build trust and credibility with their team, which in turn leads to greater engagement and productivity. As John Maxwell puts it, "Authenticity is the foundation of leadership. It's the first step in building trust and credibility with others."